Billed as ‘Britain’s first hip-hop musical, on paper 1 Day sounds like a do-gooder Guardian-reader’s community play, dramatising social issues to a soundtrack of urban beats and songs delivered in a semi-operatic style. That the result plays so freshly is largely due to the efforts of writer/director Penny Woolcock, following in the tradition of the courageous realism of her television work (Macbeth on the Estate. Tina Goes Shopping) .
Newcomer Dylan Duffus offers a fluent and likeable performance as Flash, a Birmingham wide-boy with a string of lovers and children in tow, and just one day to pay off a debt to another dealer who’s just come out of jail. Despite its painstakingly observed argot and grim sense of realism, 1 Day’s action encompasses a number of hip-hop numbers, ably performed by a non-professional but enthusiastic cast.
There’s plenty of contradictions inherent in the material; Woolcock shoots the action scenes so vividly that the film’s sobering message risks being drowned out by the artfully choreographed gunfire. But the same stylisation also makes the exuberant musical scenes flow; despite its street-roughness, 1 Day scores points by giving a strong and sympathetic voice to a social group rarely represented in UK cinema.
Selected release from Fri 6 Nov.